A Comprehensive Guide for New Residents in Dubai: Enrolling Your Child in School

Welcome to Dubai! As a new resident, you might be overwhelmed with the task of finding the right school for your child. With 216 private schools following 17 curriculums in Dubai and 247 in Abu Dhabi, the choices are abundant but can be confusing. This guide aims to simplify the process and provide you with all the necessary information to make an informed decision.

Finding the Right School

Firstly, you need to identify schools that align with your child's educational needs. This involves choosing a curriculum and scheduling visits to schools that offer it. During these visits, inquire about exam success rates, extracurricular activities, class sizes, staff turnover, and any specific needs your child might have.

Lisa Whyte, the head of admissions at Taaleem, suggests contacting other parents, ensuring the school's location is convenient, joining a school tour, meeting the school staff, and consulting the school inspection reports from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai and the Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) in Abu Dhabi.

Choosing the Right Curriculum

Education experts recommend choosing a curriculum based on what your child would best fit back into should you decide to return to your home country before they graduate. The International Baccalaureate is often considered the “universal donor” of education and is highly transportable for those who are likely to move around to different countries.

Budgeting for School Fees

School fees in Dubai and Abu Dhabi vary widely. While top schools can be pricey, fees have been frozen at Dubai’s private schools for the last three years. However, charges are permitted to increase for the next academic school year. You can find details of school ratings and fees on the KHDA or ADEK websites, as well as on individual school websites.

Applying to Schools

Once you've found a suitable school, the application process involves completing an online application form, providing the required documents, making an appointment for an assessment, and paying any application fees. After the assessment, you should receive an offer letter, which should be signed and a deposit is required to reserve your seat.

Admission Criteria and Tests

Admission criteria can be found on the regulators’ websites or directly from the schools. Admission tests depend on the grade and curriculum, typically covering key subjects such as science, maths, and English. In Abu Dhabi, children are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis and the tests are used to help determine the child’s grade level. In Dubai, assessments are often prerequisites for elite schools.

Timetable for Admissions

Admissions for the following academic year will commonly remain open all year round. However, some in-demand schools have waiting lists. Schools that have places available will keep taking children until September. Admissions for the following academic year will open on about March 1.

Required Documents

You will need a school application form, copies of the passports of the pupil and parents and their UAE visa pages, Emirates ID, eight passport-size photographs, a copy of the child's birth certificate, their school records for the last two years, immunization records, and a school transfer certificate.

Remember, the earlier you apply, the better. The process is generally the same across the UAE, although there may be some minor differences. Welcome to your new journey in Dubai, and here's to a successful academic journey for your child!
Understanding the School Year and Important Dates

The school year in Dubai typically starts in September and ends in June or July of the following year. However, the application process for the next academic year often begins much earlier. Many schools open their admissions around March 1st, and some highly sought-after schools may even start their admissions process as early as January, 20 months before the September of the following academic year.

It's important to note that popular schools may have waiting lists, and some schools may only open admissions for a short period of time. Therefore, it's crucial to start your school search early and apply as soon as admissions open.

Preparing for the Admission Test

Admission tests are a common part of the application process, especially for elite schools in Dubai. These tests typically cover key subjects such as science, maths, and English, and they are used to assess your child's academic level and place them in the appropriate grade.

In Abu Dhabi, children are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and the tests are used to help determine the child’s grade level. Some schools may charge a non-refundable fee of up to Dh1,000 for these assessments.

What Happens After You Apply?

Once you've submitted your application and your child has taken the admission test, you should receive an offer letter from the school. This letter needs to be signed and returned to the school, along with a deposit to reserve your child's seat. This deposit is usually expected within five days of receiving the offer.

Please note that a place will not usually be held until the payment has been received. If the school is at capacity, your child may be placed in a waiting list pool, but these often move fast.

Final Thoughts

Moving to a new country and navigating its education system can be a daunting task, but with the right information and preparation, you can ensure a smooth transition for your child. Remember to start early, do your research, and don't hesitate to ask questions. Welcome to Dubai, and we wish your child a successful and enjoyable learning journey!

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